Like 'Aliens' before it, this sequel to '28 Days Later' equals, if not one-ups, its predecessor

28 Weeks Later

on May 11, 2007 by Wade Major
To find a significant parallel and precedent to the relationship between Danny Boyle's landmark 28 Days Later and the triumph of its even more frenetic and doubly horrifying sequel 28 Weeks Later , one must to go all the way back to Ridley Scott's original Alien and its equally (by most assessments) impressive James Cameron-directed follow-up Aliens (if not even further to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and its sequel Dawn of the Dead ). Whereas both 28 Days Later and Alien are distinctive and uniquely claustrophobic exercises in minimalist horror, their sequels favor a broader (and costlier) mix of action, suspense and saturated terror. Not that anyone should expect 28 Weeks Later to do Aliens numbers at the box office, but for fans of Boyle's original, the franchise's evolution is certain to be equally satisfying.

Boyle and original writer Alex Garland take only executive producer credits this time out, handing the reins to up-and-coming Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo ( Intacto ) and his savvy team of co-writers. As with Aliens , the continued premise is both apt and predictable: 28 weeks after the outbreak of the original virus, England is a virtual ghost town. The raging, rabid packs of infected have died of starvation, opening the door for the American military to arrive and begin rebuilding efforts. It's a particularly happy day for one survivor named Don (Robert Carlyle) as he is reunited with his children—teenage daughter Tammy and 12-year-old son Andy (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton)—whom he and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) had fortuitously sent to Spain at the time of the outbreak. But Don is also plagued by guilt at having abandoned Alice to the cannibalistic ravages of the infected after a sudden attack while holed up in a remote farmhouse.

One need not be an expert in the genre to know that the family makes only scarce strides at healing itself before several bizarre twists of fate intervene, resurrecting the virus and creating an almost instantaneous hoard of foaming-at-the-mouth, blood-vomiting 21st-century viral zombies to wreak unspeakable havoc across the land…again. It's certainly nothing new for the movies—Romero has made a career of such films—but by encapsulating the premise in the dilemma of a fractured family, Fresnadillo maintains a level of empathy that is entirely untypical for the genre. It's not enough to be generically frightened for the well-being of archetypal children—Fresnadillo wants audiences to care for these particular children as people, horror film conventions notwithstanding.

But, like Boyle before him, Fresnadillo is also keenly aware that he need not reinvent the wheel—even in fourth gear, a zombie film is still a zombie film.  
Romero, of course, was a particularly keen practitioner of allegorical commentary, which Fresnadillo and his collaborators also emulate by drawing direct parallels to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the “viral” nature of the insurgency. It's meant to be more provocative than partisan, and the video game-style assemblage of set pieces sometimes seems too contrived for its own good, but the overall impact is so strong and the product so slick and polished, that 28 Weeks Later simply cannot be characterized as anything other than a spectacularly satisfying surprise.
Distributor: Fox Atomic
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau, Catherine McCormack, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots and Idris Elba
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Screenwriters: Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo & Jesus Olmo and E.L. Lavigne and Jesus Olmo
Producers: Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich
Genre: Horror
Rating: R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity
Running time: 99 min.
Release date: May 11, 2007
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